Managing risk for overseas assignment during the next decade

What safety and security threats should expats expect in the next decade and what measures can employers take to mitigate the risks to ensure the safety of their assignees abroad?

Mitigating security risks for the international assignee
Over the last five years there has been a significant wave of serious conflict erupting all over the world, not least in Africa (Libya, Mali, South Sudan, and Nigeria among others), the Middle East (including Syria, Iraq, and Yemen), Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, and more) and Eastern Europe (Ukraine). Popular holiday destinations such as Egypt and Turkey have also not escaped turmoil.

The contagion of conflict and political unrest

The number of people forcibly displaced by the end of 2016 stood at 65.6 million, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. This is the highest level ever recorded.Jonathan Brown, risk team manager at global assistance providers CEGA, said, “This instability will continue to provide fertile ground for extremist groups, violence, racial tension, and more.“The contagion of local crises may increasingly create international problems – often with little warning. A more unpredictable geopolitical world may touch (and indeed in some places has already touched) countries previously unaffected by trouble.”Deaths caused by terrorism have increased fivefold since 9/11, according to the Global Terrorism Index. Islamic State (ISIS), Boko Haram, the Taliban, and Al-Qaeda have all become household names.Attacks on westerners in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, and France, have dominated UK headlines. However, the areas most affected by terrorism continue to be close to its source and include Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria.”

Dangers in the modern technological era 

Mr Brown said, “Expect to see terrorist groups adapting in the face of increasingly sophisticated intelligence gathering and taking advantage of developing technologies and weakening political infrastructures.“They may attempt to exploit the availability of anonymous communication (such as the dark web), become ever more creative in their ability to attract media attention, and further decentralize their networks to evade detection.“Like terrorism, violence and crime also come hand-in-hand with political instability. But they are not limited to politically fragile states. According to the Gun Violence Archive, the US saw more than 15,000 gun-related deaths in 2016 and gun crime in the US shows little sign of abating.”Kieran Lavy, tactical intelligence analyst at security specialists Solace Global, said, “As unlikely to abate in the near future is the level of organised crime and (often drug-related) gang violence, prevalent in emerging business destinations, such as Mexico and Brazil.Cybercrime is expected to become more prevalent and sophisticated. Expats using Wi-Fi abroad are increasingly at risk of having business and private data stolen, if they fall victim to insecure networks and cyber-attacks. Mr Lavy added, “As global movement continues to increase, cyber security awareness will need to be a vital component of travel planning. Some predict that attempts will be made to tighten laws on data protection.“On a global level, according to the World Economic Forum, technological crises have yet to impact economies or securities in a systemic way, but the risk still remains high. 
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How to mitigate risk during international assignments

Employers want to meet duty of care obligations to their staff so they can feel safe and confident abroad and employees expect to be looked after. Pre-deployment planning has never been more important to ensure the employees safety.Jonathan Brown said, “Pre-travel research should cover everything from the likelihood of terrorism or violence and the availability of local medical care, to the prevalence of environmental threats, such as earthquakes, hurricanes or floods.“Before they set off, employees should learn, for instance, how to respond to terrorist attacks or muggings, how to travel safely at night, and how to avoid risks that range from insecure Wi-Fi networks and credit card cloning to infectious diseases and unsafe drinking water. They should also find out how to adapt to extreme climates. “In addition, planning ahead can allow employers to identify employees’ (and their families’) specific health conditions; ensuring they have access to prescriptions and medication overseas. “Integrated medical and security planning is becoming increasingly important; for instance, in a high-risk area, a safe journey to hospital will call for secure transport and real-time security intelligence. A good plan should ensure that the right medical and security support can be reached quickly; minimising risk and getting employees back to work as quickly as possible.” “Employers sometimes forget that travel itself can be dangerous, especially if it involves crossing high-risk countries, or journeys through developing regions, where road traffic accidents are common. They should seek bespoke advice about an employee’s travel route and plan for any associated medical or security threats. An overnight stop-off may, for instance, expose an employee to risks that don’t exist in their final destination. “As global risks become more unpredictable, tracking and intelligence tools are becoming ever more relevant. They can help employers to establish employees’ proximity to real-time security and health threats abroad, alert them to danger and give them easy access to both medical and security support, from the moment they set off abroad.”For related news and features visit our International Assignments sectionAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online Directory

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